HAYWARD — While smokers were originally given until today to forgo public puffing or face a fine, a grace period has been extended for three weeks because the penalty for such a crime has yet to be determined.
In May, the City Council approved a new law that bans smoking on city streets, sidewalks and other public places. That includes restaurants and bars — including outdoor areas — as well as parks, sports fields, playgrounds and greenways. Also, smoking is prohibited within 20 feet of a door, window or ventilation duct, and the same distance from any of the aforementioned public places.
People can still smoke in a private residence, unless it is used as a child care center, and in a limited number of hotel and motel rooms. Businesses can offer a parking lot smoking section, provided it meets the 20-feet-away requirement.
The law went into effect in June, but the city mandated a 60-day grace period during which warnings would be issued in order to gradually acclimatize smokers and business owners to the rule.
But because the city's master fee and fine list won't go before the City Council until its Sept. 16 meeting, the earliest that tickets could be issued is Sept. 17.
"Technically it is enforceable starting (today)," said Millie Saad of the City Manager's office. "However, because the (master fee) schedule goes before the council Sept. 16, until that time people will get courtesy warnings. We will continue the education process to let people know about the law."
City officials said they are consulting with the Police Department to come up with an appropriate fine.
The ordinance attracted little opposition when it went before the council. It was passed on a 5-2 vote, with councilmen Kevin Dowling and Bill Ward dissenting. Both said the ordinance would be tough to enforce.
"It has nothing to do with the content, that's just the way it is," Saad said.